The H+ Summit @Melbourne is Coming to Town!

Adam Ford, who invited me to speak at last year’s Singularity Summit in Melbourne, is also organising this year’s H+ Summit in Melbourne, June 25 – 26. He asked me to post some info about it:

The H+ Summit @ Melbourne brings together an eclectic mix of rationalists, futurists, science fiction writers, AI experts, scientists, biotechnology experts, philosophers and theorists to pursue deep philosophical, scientific and technological inquiry, with the aim of being able to discern those changes which are likely to have profound impacts and those which are merely transient and or fashionable.

Technological innovation permeates all aspects of society — from tiny water purification packets and 3d printers, to GPS tracking devices, wearable smart devices, decision support systems, replaceable body parts and personal genome tests. Because technology and society evolve together, it has become increasingly important to develop a greater understanding of how technology is shaping the course of our lives. We are faced with the challenge to continuously become innovative in harnessing and controlling technological development as it accelerates on many diverse fronts. The “pioneers of the future” are faced with the necessity to become ever more resourceful. Even the most conservative thinkers agree that we have already stepped into an era of a profound change. The good news is that our human diversity continues to spawn both inventiveness and novelty.

This conference is brought to you by Humanity+ @ Melbourne (Victoria, Australia). Humanity+ explores how society might use and profit from a variety of creative and innovative thought. Join us for this adventurous journey into the future where you can make a difference! This conference will challenge and enhance your view of the future.

Seating is limited, so Secure your tickets now! >>

Partial list of Speakers and subjects:

Unfortunately I can’t make it due to Perdomo Lounge responsibilities, otherwise I’d be there with bells on.

Blue Waters To Go Online by 2011

Iowa State University will take delivery is a partner with NCSA & IBM* in the development of Blue Waters – the world’s first supercomputer to be able to sustain 1 petaflop – in 2011. (source: FoxNews). IBM says Blue Waters will have a peak performance of 10 petaflops. (source: Wikipedia)

Blue Waters, an implementation of PERCS technology, is planned to be composed of:
– more than 25,000 eight-core POWER7 CPUs with 32MB on-die L3 cache running at 4.0 GHz (200,000 cores)
– more than 1 petabyte of main memory
– more than 10 petabytes of disk storage
– half an exabyte of archival storage
– up to 400 Gbit/s external (Internet) connectivity

Why is this important?

Well, according to Ray Kurzweil (listen to 2005 my interview with him here), the human brain probably has a computational level of 20 petaflops. (source: The Enlightened Blog)

And we all know that Moore’s Law says that theoretical computing speeds double every 2 years. That means we should have a supercomputer doing 20 petaflops by 2013.

Take THAT, stupid Mayans.

* The first draft of this post said Iowa State was “taking deliver” of Blue Waters. My thanks to Trish Barker from National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) for sending me an email pointing out that “while Iowa State is a partner on the project and scientists from Iowa State will use the supercomputer to do big science, the supercomputer will be here at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign”.

She also gave me these additional links:

The hardware:
The building:

New Singularity Essays

IEEE Spectrum has a series of new essays on the singularity from the likes of Vernor Vinge and Rodney Brooks (who have both been on this show in the last year).

My favourite quote so far comes from Vinge’s new essay “Signs of the Singularity“:

“The best answer to the question, “Will computers ever be as smart as humans?” is probably “Yes, but only briefly”.”

Four More Years Before Machines Surpass Humans

Hans Moravec has suggested that the human brain has a processing capacity of 10 quadrillion instructions per second (10 billion MIPS). In comparison, it was announced today that the fastest supercomputer in the world, called Roadrunner and devised and built by engineers and scientists at I.B.M. and Los Alamos National Laboratory, is capable of handling 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.

In 2007, it was announced the previous fastest supercomputer, IBM’s Blue Gene /l, had been upgraded to achieve 478 TFLOPS sustained and 596 TFLOPS peak. So in less that 12 months, we’ve doubled (hey, I should create a law around that prediction).

So, if Moore’s Law holds out:

2009 – 2 QIPS

2010 – 4 QIPS

2011 – 8 QIPS

2012 – 16 QIPS – which puts it 6 QIPS above the suggested ability of a human brain.

Are you ready for that? Do you think the human race is ready for that?

We have NO IDEA what the consequences of that are. On one hand, it could be nothing. On the other hand, what if sentience is nothing more than massive computation?

Either way, here we are, a mere 4 years before a machine is likely to be built which will have a bigger brain than a human and we aren’t even discussing what that means for the human race.

Well, that’s not exactly true – Tyler’s Singularity Institute are discussing it, but where is the debate in mainstream media, in the government, in polite society?

It reminds me of a chat I had with Australian SF author Damien Broderick over dinner about ten years ago. I asked him when he thought these subjects would be discussed by the general populace. He replied “when it’s way too late to do anything about it”.

Reading Warren Ellis’ blog

If you haven’t read / aren’t reading Warren Ellis’ work, then you are seriously missing out on one of the most exciting things happening in media (for my money anyway). I only discovered his stuff about a year ago and I’ve become a complete fanboi. Ellis has been writing comics for about 15 years, including some mainstream titles like IRON MAN and FANTASTIC FOUR, but he’s best loved for his original titles such as TRANSMETROPOLITAN (about a Hunter S. Thompson-esque journalist in a dystopian future America), GLOBAL FREQUENCY (about a loosely-coupled team of expert terrorism fighters), and PLANETARY (about a small team of super-powered humans saving the world from the forces of evil, domestic and interstellar). His writing is edgy, political, taps into transhumanism and the singularity, and he usually works with terrific artists who create stunning imagery to flesh-out his stories. He’s got a new web comic called FREAKANGELS which looks like it’s going interesting places as well.

Anyway, this post was prompted by one of his blogs posts this morning (see below) about the Thunderbirds and I was thinking about how shows like that (and, of course, Star Trek), considered camp and silly even at the time by many, inspired a generation. And I was thinking – what are today’s shows which are likely to inspire the next generation of adults to push the boundaries of science, art and business? What shows on TV today are building a vision for a better future, one we can aspire to, strive for, work towards? Most of the shows I love today (or have loved recently), the futuristic shows, are dystopian. BSG, Firefly (RIP)… ummm… hard to think of any others right now. While they each have some cool toys and technologies, I don’t think either of them contain aspirational messages. I do, however, get a lot of aspirational futures from the books I read. Charles Stross, William Gibson, Vernor Vinge – all write about near-term futures which get me bloody excited. But not TV.

Got any suggestions?

clipped from
I loved THUNDERBIRDS. Save the world, go back to your island base, get rat-arsed, smoke a thousand cigarettes and hit on the Quality and the Asian girl. These are the lessons tv taught us back then. . I will go now, because Ariana says these notes are taking on the tone of a guy on a desert island talking to his pet coconut.
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